A ‘successful divorce’ means there was an unsuccessful marriage – and is that ever a successful outcome? That is a tough question, where the best you can expect is to make the most of a difficult situation. As such, a successful outcome in a divorce would most likely be a divorce where both parties are amicable towards one another. Where both parties make sure the children get to see both parents, work through it, and move on. That is the best outcome.
What Factors Does The Court Consider When Awarding Custody?
There are a number of factors the courts look at, when awarding custody. The Court works towards the “best interest of the child” as a general rule, but just what that actually is can shift from judge to judge. Take, for example, parents with difficult work schedules, such as where one parent works a third shift. That could be a problem. If the parent that works the third shift is great, and the other parent does not work at all, and is a drug abuser, then we have an issue. The best interest of the child would be to live with that parent who works the third shift, difficult though that might be. Other things to consider could be how stable the home environment is, and whether child custody could be reasonably split between both parents. If one parent doesn’t have a stable home, or lives a significant distance from the other, than those factors may also seriously impact the Court’s decision.
In the older days, it was more common for a younger child to be with the mother. That was just what the courts did back then; the “Tender Years Doctrine” is what they use to call it. Nowadays, it is looked at in a more balanced fashion, and the court system feels that both parents are definitely important in a child’s life. The child should be able to spend time with both parents. Sometimes judges can look at the child’s preferences and give it weight, especially if the child is older. The judge might ask the child who he or she wants to live with. They may look at the financial abilities of both sides, but that financial ability is not really in issue, because once child support is calculated, it usually works itself out.
The way custody works in North Carolina is somewhat different. In North Carolina, when you file a lawsuit for child custody, we require that you attend mediation. There are only two exceptions to this: first, if one of the parties lives more than one-hundred miles away from court, they do not have to attend, and second, if there has been a domestic violence issue, and then they can forego the mediation. Otherwise, the mediator takes the case once the lawsuit has been filed. The parties go to a custody mediation session. It’s just the two parties and the mediators – their attorneys are not present. The goal is to make an agreement that the parties can live with, which sometimes isn’t the same thing as an agreement that they like. In fact, the best agreements are often those which both parties aren’t in love with but still okay with. There are benefits to a mediated agreement – primarily, that the parties get to have a say in what they agree to. At a hearing, it’s up to a judge, not to them.
If successful, the mediator writes up the agreement, both parties consent to the agreement via signature, and that agreement becomes a court order. If unsuccessful, then the case is scheduled for trial.
Which Parent Is Going To Be Paying The Child Support?
To determine who pays, we use the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. It calculates each parties needs and obligations in a standardized fashion used across the state. The Guidelines take into account the incomes of both parties, the number of children, the number of other children outside the current relationship that either party is responsible for, the amount of custody that is awarded to each party, health insurance, childcare costs, and any kind of extraordinary expenses.
Extraordinary expenses could include private school tuition or maybe dance lessons. It could include that the father lives on the eastern half of the state, and the mother lives on the western side of the state, and the extraordinary expense could be the father has only one vehicle that works. He might have to travel all the way from one side of the state to the other to let the mother visit. That would be an extraordinary expense figured in the worksheet. We use three worksheets, worksheet A, worksheet B, and worksheet C. A is the most common worksheet; it is used when one party has primary custody, and the other party has visitation rights. Worksheet B is used when there is a joint custody situation, which is somewhere but not always around half-and-half custody.
Worksheet C is the least used. Worksheet C is used sometimes if there are two children or more and each parent takes different ones on a full time basis. If the child spends more than 123 overnights with the other parent it can substantially reduce the child support obligation.
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